Cynic
Traced in Air


5.0
classic

Review

by John weathered old reviewer Hanson STAFF
November 18th, 2008 | 3787 replies


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Traced in Air is essentially the audible recording of the element of Air, in all of its beauty and rage, and one could not ask for anything more.

It’s hard to go into Traced in Air without lingering memories of Cynic’s original masterpiece, Focus. Focus was a landmark technical metal album, deftly combining heavy metal with elements of jazz and alternative rock to form what is still regarded as one of the pinnacles of the metal scene in the early '90s. This leaves Traced in Air with two sets of shoes to fill: it first has to live up to how great Focus was quality-wise, but it also has the anticipation of perhaps being another genre-fusing and building album like its predecessor. While some may have expected the 15 years and band member changes to perhaps cause a giant shift in sound which would have caused either a renaissance or a dilution of Cynic’s sound, all that happened in 15 years was the maturation of Paul Masvidal, Sean Reinart and Sean Malone to the point where Traced in Air sounds like the older, futuristic, spacey cousin of the already futuristic, spacey Focus. Which means it's arguably the weirdest metal album released this year, and almost undoubtedly the best.

The highlight of the album is tough to distinguish, as the playing of all the members is top notch and the concepts are executed so well that it all generally blends into one unifying force. When broken down though, it is Paul Masvidal’s guitar playing that puts Cynic over the top. Whereas most “tech” metal guitarists end up relying on similar guitar riffs and patterns, Masvidal’s outstanding creativity and phrasings combined with his impeccable ear for guitar tones and effects makes all of his guitar work on Traced in Air sound fresh and unique. “The Space For This” showcases all of his talents, as he goes from simple note and chord arrangements in the beginning to a free-flowing solo that reminds one of a more aggressive, metal-inclined John Mclaughlin, Eastern influences and all. His work on the album is astounding, and while the guitar interplay with Tymon Kruidenier isn’t as intricate or impressive as it was when Jason Gobel was with the band, it doesn’t take away from the accomplishments they make on Traced in Air.

None of this is to take away from bassist Sean Malone or drummer Sean Reinart’s work, both of whom assume massive influence on this records greatness. Reinart is technically impressive with his tight rhythmic playing being counterbalanced with just the right amount of fills and jazz-improvisation styled drumming. It never gets out of hand like some other “extreme metal” drummers end up doing, and Reinart’s chemistry with Masvidal and Malone in crafting songs is unparalleled in contemporary metal. Malone isn’t as verbose on the bass as he used to be, but solidly contributes. The one possible fault of the album is his role in the mix, which is often just a tad bit too low, drowning him out in the low end of the other instruments.

What makes Traced in Air special is not the incredible musicianship, although that helps. What makes it such an immense record is the execution and delivery of the concept. The songs are flowing melodies that sound as if they are “traced in air”; the songs all contain a beauty seldom seen in the technical side of metal (Opeth wishes they could pull off that part of their dynamic as well as Cynic). While some may see it as a downfall that the heaviness Focus had has been replaced by a far more atmospheric and light take on their sound, deep listens will begin to uncover all the small intricacies of the album. It would take too long to delve into what makes each of these songs special, with “Integral Birth” and “Evolutionary Sleeper” being what amounts to the ‘accessible’ tracks, while “The Unknown Guest” and “King of Those Who Know” push the envelope of Cynic’s songwriting.

Beyond what I have stated, attempting to describe the album could only end up in two ways; either a 3 page dissertation of their sounds and goals or a messy jumble of metaphors and analogies that only serve to indulge my urge to write. It is safe to say Traced in Air is a unique album in the world of both metal and rock music, and one crafted with such love and fondness it would be a wonder if they don’t continue on to write more material. Its short length means you don’t get burned out on the riffs or Masvidal’s airy singing, or annoyed at the slapped-on growls (which aren’t bad, but just aren’t necessary anymore). Traced in Air is the most impressive record I’ve been able to hear in years, one in which I can mindlessly headbang too a riff one minute, and then sit back mouth agape the next minute at an extended jazzy guitar solo with nothing lost in translation. While some may wonder where the corn is, most will find enough to appreciate to make them come back time and time again for more. A truly exemplary record, Traced in Air is essentially the audible recording of the element of Air, in all of its beauty and rage, and one could not ask for anything more.



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user ratings (2345)
Chart.
4.2
excellent
other reviews of this album
1 of
  • Brendan Schroer (4.5)
    Truly mind-blowing....

    JizzInMyPants (4)
    A strong effort by Cynic...

    Jeremiad (5)
    "Traced In Air" is a well written and masterfully executed piece of progressive metal....

    Matthew D. French (2)
    You know it's a sad year for music when Cynic's "Traced In Air" is the number one rated al...

  • Fugue (2.5)
    Despite wanting to get into this album, I really cannot, due to lack of emotional depth....

    Sean (4.5)
    Cynic successfully continues on with their incredibly unique sound while adding even more ...

    AngelPhoenix (5)
    Mellifluous Magnificence....


Comments:Add a Comment 
Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
November 18th 2008


16089 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

It is a generally subpar review which is unfortunate because the album deserves the best review ever.

204409
Emeritus
November 18th 2008


3996 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I like Focus and this the same generally, but also not as high as a 5.

marksellsuswallets
November 18th 2008


4848 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I feel like I'm missing out by not fapping all over this album...

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
November 18th 2008


16089 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Your rating of a 3 is greatly disappointing Nick.

Lunarfall
November 18th 2008


3179 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Subpar review or not, it makes me want to get Traced In Air even more.

Time for about 10 pages of ass kissing Cynic.

ManWomanBoogie
November 18th 2008


185 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

start of 10 pages of ass kissing Cynic.

badtaste
November 18th 2008


824 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Not br00tal enough.

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
November 18th 2008


16089 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

The album is ridiculously awesome stop the QQ and start that kisskiss

NortherlyNanook
November 18th 2008


1285 Comments


Not a 5. Nope. Nope.

marksellsuswallets
November 18th 2008


4848 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I'll give this another listen before rating it I suppose but it really isn't blowing me away or anything...

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
November 18th 2008


16089 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

"JesusDeEspana (1:06:24 AM): people dont just listen to it
JesusDeEspana (1:06:25 AM): they expect
JesusDeEspana (1:06:27 AM): something
JesusDeEspana (1:06:33 AM): instead of just letting it breeze over them"This Message Edited On 11.18.08

NortherlyNanook
November 18th 2008


1285 Comments


honestly, it's better than i was expecting.

but i guess i'm not cool enough for PROG DEATH

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
November 18th 2008


16089 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

there is no death to this don't call it death at all =(

marksellsuswallets
November 18th 2008


4848 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I didn't say I was expecting it to blow me away or anything I just said it wasn't...silly...This Message Edited On 11.18.08

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
November 18th 2008


16089 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Most people I talk to who are all like "well I mean it was overhyped" don't get the process of not paying attention to what people have said when listening to an album.
I mean I am probably overhyping the shit out of this but I had no expectations going in even with an immense amount of self hype.

ManWomanBoogie
November 18th 2008


185 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

It's a pretty awesome album guys.

marksellsuswallets
November 18th 2008


4848 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I've payed attention to what people have said I suppose but I hadn't heard any of the bands other material before I started seeing all the praise of this album so I really had no idea what to expect...

JumpTheF**kUp
November 18th 2008


2716 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

FIRST PAGE OF 900+ COMMENTS YESSSSS
album is good, will read review later but i'm assuming it's up to your usual standards

rasputin
November 18th 2008


14555 Comments


rasputin

marksellsuswallets
November 18th 2008


4848 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Bump what I said earlier I'll rate it now...

sup raspThis Message Edited On 11.18.08



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